The world’s largest grocer has found itself at the centre of a hoax aimed at manipulating the price of a cryptocurrency.
A fake press release, supposedly put out by Walmart, said that customers could pay for online shopping with litecoin from October.
The announcement was picked up by international news outlets, including Reuters and CNBC, sending the litecoin price soaring by around a third.
According to The Times, it dropped rapidly after investors became suspicious and Walmart confirmed the release was a sham.
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The hoax had the hallmarks of a “pump and dump” scheme, where misleading information is used to inflate the price of a security.
Traders who sold litecoin during its spike to 156.9p – it is now trading around 130p – could have made significant profits.
It is likely to raise questions about the vulnerability of unregulated cryptomarkets to manipulation.
“This will certainly strengthen calls for regulation,” said Charles Kerrigan, a partner at CMS law firm.
The press release included fake quotes from Walmart head Doug McMillion, claiming litecoin would provide a “smooth checkout experience”, and Charlie Lee, who developed the currency.
It was distributed by GlobeNewswire, which said the announcement was put out by a fake account.
The platform told Fox it would take “enhanced authentication steps” to stop the scandal from happening again.
Walmart said it was investigating how the hoax came to be published.
It comes just days after El Salvador adopted bitcoin, the cryptocurrency on which litecoin is based, as legal tender.